I’ve seen a couple posts recently over on Reddit asking about the costs involved with a private pilot certificate. Its a common question, and while some of the FBOs that offer instruction try to put a number on the amount of money you’re about to drop, those are based on estimates and not necessarily a real world example. For those thinking about taking the leap, I figured it would be a good idea to put my own numbers out there detailing exactly how much money it cost me to go from zero flight hours to passing the private pilot checkride.
I’m getting ready to start the flight portion of my instrument training, and while I’m waiting for the weather to improve (well, deteriorate actually) I’ve been thinking about some of the experiences I had doing the training for my private pilot’s certificate. Especially with the current work going on at Stinson Municipal Airport (KSSF) re-surfacing runway 14 and doing some taxiway work, I was reminded of a time when my instructor and I nearly ran over an unexpected taxiway obstruction . . .
Mechanical failures in flight are something that is taught from day one during primary flight training, but rarely do students get an opportunity to experience the real thing firsthand. I’ve seen some videos where that wasn’t the case, especially one student pilot who landed on a golf course after an engine failure, but for the majority of pilots the closest they come to an in-flight emergency in training is when the instructor abruptly cuts the throttle and won’t give it back. Lucky for me, I found myself with a playful little mechanical failure during the night cross country of my training . . .
After passing my check ride, I Googled around for a bit trying to find out how long it would take to get my printed pilot’s certificate in the mail from the FAA. At the time it had been a couple weeks, and I was starting to get concerned that there might be some paperwork error that would prevent me from actually getting the slip of plastic that I had spent all year working towards. It wasn’t out of the question — my DPE was older than time itself and had only used IACRA once or twice before. There’s a great site for predicting wait times for NFA items from the ATF, but there didn’t seem to be a good resource for my specific problem. Now that I have my pilot’s certificate in hand, I figured I should catalog how long it took to try and help others figure out about when the much anticipated day should arrive.
I finally did it. After eight months of training, I took and passed the Airplane Single Engine Land Private Pilot Practical Exam in one shot. Back when I started I shuddered with fear whenever I thought about the oral exam and the check ride, but as the day approached and I continued training that fear wore off. In the end it was actually a ton of fun, and for the benefit of those still sweating the check ride I wanted to talk about my experience and draw back the curtain of what’s going to happen.
I started flight training in February. Between ground school and then primary flight training, it has taken me about eight months of instruction to get to this point — and it feels amazing. The weather was beautiful, the winds favorable, and the ATC staff was downright pleasant. Make the jump for my flight plan.
Last week, I found myself once again flying endless laps around the pattern trying to perfect my landings. It’s a familiar situation — I had done the exact same thing months before, and I thought I had already mastered the finesse of the short field landing. Emphasis on the “months” there. That’s what got me in trouble.
So far during my primary flight training, the approach slope indicator lights haven’t really been something I used or worried about. Landing my little Cessna on a 4,000+ foot strip in broad daylight has gotten easier and easier, and even when I was terrible I was more concerned about flying a stabilized approach than being “on” the glideslope. Sure a quick glance now and again to confirm that I wasn’t too low has been helpful, but it wasn’t among the tools I relied upon to bring me safely into the airport. And then I flew at night, and realized exactly how useful that little strip of lights can become.